“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu

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FOUR Secrets of Filmmaking – Plus CDI Updates

Good morning from HOME! Yes. I’m sipping some coffee after a few puppy cuddles and now I’ll be sharing with all of you some updates and insights. First I want to talk about LOST HEART. What a ride we had. First it was just amazing to go from just a blueprint with the script to capturing magic. This script has been hailed as one of my best pieces of writing. I know that writing is much like a film in that it’s subjective. But the story did a great job of painting interesting characters in unique places and situations. It was my first script with Melissa Anschutz in the lead and she performed beyond all my expectations. Much like Shane Hagedorn in Wild Faith, it was great that my scripts could be used as starring vehicles for my friends/peers.

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While we were filming LOST HEART, WILD FAITH was rolling out across the nation. Wal-Mart’s and other retailers around the country starting carrying the film DVD and the fans responded. I had so many people approach me the last few weeks who had watched several of the CDI films. One day in prep – Shane Hagedorn (Emmett) got stopped by a maintenance guy who had seen Wild Faith. Already thrilled to met Emmett, he was further thrilled to be led into a room where Melissa Anschutz and I worked accounting. His eyes got big and his smile wide as he got to meet Ben Lily and Hester Thickett. This meeting of fans played out several times during our multi week stay. All around town – handshakes and kind words. I’m so proud of both Shane and Melissa – they are true leading talent. Everyone sits around and wishes for a starring role but only a select can really ‘lead’ a film. It’s not easy physically, mentally and keeping that arc requires constant adjustments. These two along with my ole workhorse buddy Anthony (Tony) Hornus made up my senior producing team. We have a great associate producer team that helps us do what needs to be done.

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Jesse Low made his third film with CDI (Forty Nights & Wild Faith) and now Lost Heart. Nate “The General” Robertson led a great production campaign. One of his very best to date. We had Nancy Oeswein and Witney Wagner working with CDI for the first time in our office. I think it was a great collaboration and while they had to jump into a very existing system they adjusted and brought some new ideas to the table. I look forward to another future collaboration. Now it cannot be all rainbows so what were some of the issues. Now before addressing that I will again say that prep is so important because it allows a production to aim all its efforts at the immediate problem solving. I see too many businesses run in reactive mode putting a bandaid on something but that in turn causes three issues. Put in the hard work in advance – it pays off. We did this and it was apparent on set and in the final footage.

  • Communication – making better communication is always the goal. While we are VERY good we always strive for better. Most small issues arrive from assuming and not knowing. We are all guilty of that at times and work hard to correct that.
  • Focus – when we are at work people need to set aside their personal relationships aside and focus on the goals of the day. From Call to wrap a film crew works to get its puzzle pieces (Footage). Time is the essence each day and focusing on task will result in earlier days, less mistakes/damages and make a better final product.
  • Representation – When you work for a company you not only represent the film company but the craft as a whole. One of our major locations had someone call and warn them before shooting about “filmmakers” because of a bad experience they had. When asked if it was our company they replied NO. CDI was defended by the owners by telling them their experience had been 100% positive. It is why I am so protective and communicate with locations that all companies are NOT equal. I’m not even comparing subjective final films but how we conduct ourselves while working. I’ve had people try to “drop” my name or our company to gain access to a place. Location owners all know to call us first if approached because if your operation is ‘slash and burn’ meaning getting footage by whatever means possible, that is conveyed. Or at the least letting them know we are not connected. Our team was raking up mulch at one location after the shoot. Pride in how your company/work is looked upon as a fine quality.
  • Positive Attitude – This is something especial required of KEYS. You set the department tone.  For example at CDI vulgar or aggressive outbursts are not tolerated without being addresses. Those examples again show poor communication and tells others that you’re not in control of your department. We always have a few that rise to the new challenge and fly while a few perhaps need more time under an experienced key. Skillset is only part of the equation – being able to motivate, inspire and lead a team with positive enthusiasm is the sign of a great leader. CDI is about developing leaders.

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Once things are running smooth I get to sit back and watch everything. I get to ninja about and observe. I see who treats their gear proper. You should always treat gear as if you own it. Watch someone who does own the gear care for their gear. This is much like the care given to our locations. I can see when outside personal issues intrude upon someone’s focus. I see when personal interactions interfere with work flow and cause distractions. I see when people rush versus moving quickly with care. I see when people are not fully conditioned for feature length shoots either due to lack of rest, poor nutrition and/or lack of prep. I’m proud to say our production only had a few occasions where these things happened. But it is easy to spot on a film set that runs smooth. It is the job of management (producers) to sit back after and evaluate performance. This leads to rehiring or perhaps realizing someone needs more development. Sometimes it was a person was used in the wrong place and would be better suited elsewhere. But applying the 4 principals listed above will improve any production.

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MBF: Man’s Best Friend – This film is about to heat up! A premiere in the director’s home town is being explored first. The film will be releasing into select theaters and home video in the next few months. We got to do a small private screening in pre-production and…(SMILE) – I cannot wait for people to see the film. It showcases beautiful performances by wonderful actors. The hardworking crew made this story flow and it shows. So get ready for this story that showcases the plight of military vets and adoption dogs to come to the big and small screen.

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The Quest Trilogy – The films are continuing to produce even in the non-holiday season. These are adventure films set in biblical times and so they can be enjoyed at anytime. So as we prepare to market for the holiday season ahead – enjoy now. FORTY NIGHTS, CHASING THE STAR and THE CHRIST SLAYER.

I’m going to do final wrap up this week on LOST HEART. We’ll meet next week over post process again and to evaluate the shoot. I have a few acting reels to update – one with Ben Lily (Wild Faith) and one for Jesus (The Christ Slayer). I additionally need to work the final paperwork on the new agent collaboration for my screenwriting/producing. Lastly, I have a week-long vacation in the U.P. coming up. But right now it is about unpacking and also getting the yard/house caught up from week’s away. I hope you all enjoy your weekend and the week ahead.

Be good to one another. Doh! The coffee cup is empty.

DJ

 

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‘ROCKY’ Could Have Been A Faith Film and Other Coffee Ramblings…by DJ Perry

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The chilly fall has settled into Michigan making sipping coffee or hot cider even more enjoyable. Now is when I have to start thinking of the winter ahead. The stuff that will have to be put away and stored. The firewood for the coming snow. Even the change of clothes to heavier layers, is a normal process in Michigan. I think last week we discussed something which was the delay in shooting our next feature by a quarter. The funds are there and so many would want to rush to production, the fun part. But, we’re putting the icing on the cake for a wonderful distribution deal on WILD FAITH. It has been a touch slower since I’ve had the joy of working with the Hollywood agent system. But, in the end it will be worth it and will directly have an effect on the TV series. Upcoming 2019 will see the major organizing of the release and push on the series. We are planning to shoot in Michigan. Likely a series of shows shot in a tight production block. It’s new waters for me so I’m learning something new every day.

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Tomorrow we’ll announce via PR our recent Crown Award and the Burbank International Film Fest win for ‘Best Faith Film’ and while I would have loved to have it gone against all the films – they work by genres. But WILD FAITH is just an accurate look at 1870’s life. As the screenwriter I did not add any overdue FAITH. People we’re just more living in tune with their faith during that time period. Life was more wooly and I think people had more life and death encounters be it disease, drought, famine, bear attacks – you get the point. I love the faith and inspirational themes. ROCKY being one of my favorite illustrations of that. On his way to the fight – the father priest throws down and few blessings. Yes. ROCKY could be a faith film and it would have surely won ‘Best Inspirational’ as I’ve seen it inspire masses and I’ve been inspired by that film. My point is, I’ve never set out to make a ‘Faith Film’ and I’ve never set out to not make a ‘Faith Film” – I’ve told a story. Characters in almost all stories are confronted by a situation that tests their faith thus the relatable conflict.

Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ must find her faith. Indiana Jones fights to keep his faith versus his scientific reasoning, Men vs shark in JAWS, puts faith out there to be chewed upon as a topic. I think every film made about mankind has faith woven into it. So, is it that the content must have X amount ‘faith’ in it? Judges in chairs that spin around and hit a button if your film has the required ‘faith’? I appreciate it mostly, the acceptance to our films. But because the story, characters, situations, lessons were all something that were touched upon. That shed a bit of light on our faults projected onto a screen, so we can better understand ourselves. Deep. I know. Occasionally, I feel quite grand with my profession, pride like a good woodworker,  or any other artist. Mostly, I still feel like that kid, make believing with my neighborhood friends living out our own  STRANGER THINGS life.

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I’ve changed some in my screenwriting, I’ve noted. My earlier self was darker, heavier and nihilistic. My mom often questioning, why I kept dying in my films. Now, I’ve always had a funny, lighter side to my personality, ask anyone who really knows me. But, most of my writing came in my moments of solitary. Also writers in Michigan benefit from our long winters but the end result is often PSYCHO or THE SHINING writing in nature. Those previously mentioned films are two of my favorite for the season. Another side note: I do want to do another horror film but it has to be good. By good I mean story. Creating horror films in the handful of story formulas is like a rite of passage. The lovers of that genre cannibalize the artists with dastardly reviews. But meet them in person and they’ve always been very nice. Maybe because they saw you on camera foaming at the mouth and swinging an axe. Anyway, I was saying that I enjoy the laughter and smiles. I recall many showings of WICKED SPRING whereas people wept in the theater. We did that with our story. But I see so much negativity and anxiety with people not coping to our new world. A world where we’re more communication-connected than ever before BUT we’re not. FRIENDS have a new definition thanks to FACEBOOK but my definition stays the same. I want to be part of making people think, smile, laugh and still occasionally cry, if that comes with an enlightenment.

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The ‘Faith Film’ anti-goodhousekeeping seal of quality is being shattered as more storytellers (without labels) are returning to tell stories that their grandmother, mothers and fathers would enjoy. Ben Hur (The Original) and Ten Commandments (The Classics) were always on TV when we had our family Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter gatherings.  There are great organizations that are rising to recognize and award this kind of content. I always worry about censorship, we can choose to watch what we want. But if a demand is there, look at the rise in METV, Heroes & Icons, and the rise of the faith market. People are casting their votes with their rentals and purchases. I feel most honored by the online communications from viewers having powerful emotions invoked from our stories. It is a dream to have holidays where the films play and families bond over a watch. My goal is to make a few classics. All of them might not make it but we’ll give our ‘best effort’ every time.

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I was reminded yesterday when inquiring about a director whom a close associate had worked with – their last film isn’t done. It hasn’t been completed in a matter of several years. As an actor, I’ve got two films shot in recent years, one a co-starring role, not finished. I’ve got a call, meeting, catch up with a director friend who’s trying to finish one of two projects we did together in the very distant past. It bothers me occasionally talking someone’s new project(s) when those people have loose strings to tie up. There are many films about that don’t interest me as a viewer, but I always tip my hat to finishing. Finishing is a skill needed in this industry, without it, suffering. But it sounds like my old friend is trying to finish, so that’s a good thing.

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This week I finished my first solid draft on our next script with BMG entitled LOST HEART. In meetings with our distributor, they really liked a concept made easier that I had written something in the same vein. But I wanted to apply some of the growth I had made mentioned above. Same log line but different script. I had a wonderful time creating this story and it became so alive with characters and a world, other’s will long to visit. Jeff Kennedy and I, my partner in CDI, semi-retired – always had that as a goal. To create a world and invite people inside it. The CDI first five – really helped hone this craft. You have to BELIEVE in the world. Another 2019 goal is to get Jeff Kennedy back into a director’s chair. I have a few good ideas but they will require a good pow wow or two.

MBF has been in editing. They shot a few pick up establishing shots and transitions this week. Always good to do this once you get into the edit and really see what could be added. This film I’m so proud of. It showcases and pleads for better treatment of our war vets and dogs, that can heal us. We continue to release official stills from this film. For now the spotlight is given to…

THE CHRIST SLAYER!

Find our social media site on Facebook – lots of updates.

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Part 3 has a bold name. But the title has a meaning that audiences will discover, maybe not what they thought. I’m excited to say that Part 3 of The Quest Trilogy is coming all together. I watched a recent 5k work flow version with 98% VFX. Color Correction and conforming still lie ahead. ADR, music and sound design are steadily under construction. I’ve been working with the distributor and their marketing team as we prepare for release in early 2019. I was really happy with the story, smiling throughout. I love watching artists friends give moving performances. That’s what we want deep down. To captivate and transfer that emotion via story. This will be an exciting watch and so again, catch up – parts 1 (FORTY NIGHTS) & 2 (CHASING THE STAR) on Pureflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Christian Cinema, Parables TV….and so on. To our cast and crew, it will be worth the wait.

Okay, time for a pumpkin spice english muffin and another coffee.

Have a great Sunday!

DJ

 

 


Wild Faith-Mania and Another Film Preps To Shoot at CDI

So it’s quiet here on Saturday night and I’ll be releasing this in the wee hours of Sunday. We had a nice family gathering to celebrate several birthdays and we’ve got two more days of more such celebrations. Before we get in too deep – welcome readers from Uganda. It has been a whirlwind of business both development, promotion and post-production.

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Grand Rapids, MI appearance with Shane Hagedorn and Melissa Anschutz

It’s been wonderful to first see all the cast and crew from “Wild Faith” and following that – to have audiences enter this world we’ve recreated on-screen. We had a solid run in both Grand Rapids and Lansing. Lansing, Lansing, Lansing… I’ve always been proud of being from Lansing and still call it home to this day. I’ve always felt somewhat that the saying you can’t be a prophet in your own town, applied to me. I understand it. I think it applies to many artists.

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But, the power of a story is proving me wrong. We’ve been selling out “Wild Faith” all weekend and so tomorrow Celebration Cinema jumped us from one showing to four. This after several fine folks were unable to attend after the shows sold out in advance online. I went to run errands this morning and heard people talking about the film. Often we as the filmmakers can grow tired of the story after the long post production phase. But I’ve enjoyed the handful of theatrical showings I’ve attended. I’ve enjoyed the laughter most of all. To hear a full theater laugh together at certain moments is priceless.

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I think with the last several films I’ve played emotionally heavy characters. It was a pure joy to be Ben Lily. A tribute to a character with more bravery than brains. With my trusty half-native sidekick, or am I the sidekick? Either way, creating with these two characters was special for me because of the humor intertwined in the performance.  I also know that my old friend Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty would have approved with a hearty laugh. I do wish old friend Rance Howard could have seen the final film. He loved the trailers and truly loved the genre. The film will continue to move and play. If you want the film call/email your local theater and request the film to play. We’re in talks with several new venues and may announce new screens as early as this week. But if you can – treat yourself tomorrow. 1875 Michigan.

SUNDAY ‘WILD FAITH” SHOWTIMES AT CELEBRATION CINEMA  (LANSING) 

10:45, 1:05, 6:00, 8:05

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In other news, Collective Development Inc.‘s next film MBF/Man’s Best Friend has been given the green light. All funds are committed and being pulled in as we prep the ship to sail. We’re working on setting our schedule and I’m also proud to have ‘Paul’ front and center again. This script is another story I’m extremely proud of. I’m challenged greatly by this next role and I find that exciting. If we’ve spoken to you as cast and crew just be patient as we move down the TO DO lists. We’re working hard to create that environment to create within. I’m excited to share this film next year with audiences. In the meantime…

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The Christ Slayer is now in color correction and audio with Nathaniel Nose, director and Dennis Therrian, composer. I like to use that example of kids who get together after school to play. They have ideas, they get excited and they play. Inside the imagination play is what drives the process forward. This film will be a gift to audiences at the Christmas season. Part 3 of The Quest Trilogy will pull it all together.

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Working backwards – Chasing the Star is playing the big screen at the International Christian Film Festival up for five awards. It was nice to catch up with director Bret Miller at a “Wild Faith” screening in Grand Rapids. We got to toast a beer to the adventure in the desert we called “Chasing the Star” CTS. This film is moving into more foreign territories and platforms.

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Forty Nights” is being promoted heavily going into the Easter season by our distributor. It is such an inspiring story I can see why it was recently chosen to kick off their Easter promotions. I will admit here, of all the ICFF awards “Chasing the Star” is up for I hope we see another ‘2018 Most Inspirational‘ take home to honor our amazing cast and crew.

I can say I’ve been enjoying experiencing the reaction to this films. I’m appreciative that these stories are giving some entertainment and comfort to audiences. I’ve been writing weekly and plan to get even more focused. Wheels are in motion.Master copy Several scripts that have been waiting for their time just might find it. Some exciting developments underway that will lead to many more years of stories been told at CDI. The tribe is on the move to create and we appreciate all your support. We cannot thank you enough.

Be good to one another.

DJ